By Eric Schmidt

Chicago Bears RB Matt Forte and Detroit Lions DE Cliff Avril both received the franchise tag from their respective clubs. Both players are seeking long-term deals with their respective teams and have yet to sign their tender offer. Both players have given no indication of signing their tenders and are likely to miss mini camp later this week.

Since neither player has signed their club’s offer, technically, they are not considered to be under contract. Since they are not under contract, the teams cannot fine the players for skipping camp. This week’s camps are mandatory for all players under contract to attend.

There has been little movement on either player’s front in regards to securing long-term deals. Forte told the NFL Network stating he doesn’t want to be the highest paid running back in the league, but he wants to be among the highest paid. “I just want to be given a contract where I rank among some of the best running backs. Not the top paid or anything like that. I just want to be recognized as one of the best,” Forte said.

Forte has been a consistently  productive back in his first four years in the league. He’s averaged slightly more than 1,300 total yards per season and has established himself as one of the most prolific pass catchers out of the backfield with an average of 55 receptions per season.

Detroit Lions DE Cliff Avril is widely considered to be one of the best young pass rushers in the NFL. Avril, 26, is coming off an 11 sack season with six forced fumbles. He has recorded 30 sacks in his young career. Avril is an important piece of the Lions formidable defensive line and while the franchise tag would represent a significant salary increase for the 2012 season, Avril desires a long-term deal and the guaranteed money associated with it. Both sides have been playing the contract situation out in the media as each side say getting a deal done is up to the other side.

There is the possibility that one or both players could have a protracted holdout in their desire to get a long-term deal done. The deadline to sign the franchise tag is July 16. Between the two players, Avril has to be considered to be the player with the most leverage in contract negotiations. Pure pass rushers with Avril’s skills are difficult to find and more difficult to replace. In the case of Matt Forte, the Bears signed RB Michael Bush in the offseason, a very capable replacement.




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